Volpe’s Value

One name: Anthony Volpe.

You may not know him yet, but you will.

The 21-year-old New Jersey native’s persistence and heart were second-to-none during spring training, and the big question was whether he’d make the roster or be sent back down to the minors.

Yankees fans waited for the announcement with bated breath, and on Sunday, we finally learned his fate:

Anthony Volpe was named the starting shortstop for the New York Yankees.

He made the freaking roster!

Volpe will be the youngest player to start for the Bronx Bombers on opening day since Derek Jeter. He beat out veterans Isiah Kiner–Falefa and Oswaldo Peraza for the position, his powerful talent and immense potential giving him the edge.

He’s humble and authentic, his stats stellar, his heart and enthusiasm contagious. and, man, is he a fun player to watch!

Many of my students who are fellow Yankees fans and I have watched Volpe rise through the ranks. We admire his passion for baseball, which is like that of an old-fashioned player, and that he plays for the game, not for fame or glory.

His professional approach to his baseball career and his dedication to improving his abilities is something I admire. He is already a positive role model to the younger generation, and there’s no telling how many more people he will inspire both on and off the diamond.

Volpe was born in Watchung, New Jersey on April 28, 2001. He attended Delbarton School in Morristown (NJ) and Perfect Game named him the 2019 New Jersey HIgh School Player of the Year. While he committed to Vanderbilt University, The Yankees selected Volpe in the first round of the 2019 Major League Baseball draft (30th pick). 

Since then, he has played for minor-league affiliates Pulaski Yankees, Tampa Tarpons, and Hudson Valley Renegades. In 2022, he moved up to the Double-A Eastern League Somerset Patriots, where he hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 10th inning giving the Patriots a 6-5 win against the visiting Hartford Yard Goats on June 26. Volpe represented the American League at the 2022 All-Star Futures Game in July. He batted .252 with 18 home runs and 60 RBIs in 109 games as a Patriot and was promoted to the Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders on September 2.

Earlier this week, the former non-roster spring training invitee and Number 1 prospect in the Yankees organization received the 2023 James P. Dawson Award, given annually to the most outstanding Yankees rookie in spring training, the first of many honors no doubt.

That’s how he does it. All heart and hustle.

There’s no doubt Anthony Volpe’s name will become as recognizable as both Jeter’s and Judge’s. I cannot wait to watch him grow into his greatness and witness the birth of another legendary career this season as I wear #11 with pride.

Way to go, kid!

Thank you for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you are here.

With light and love,


“Volpe’s Value” was posted on jillocone.com on March 29, 2023. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any of my employers. Copyright 2023, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

Why I Write

I went to a ¨retreat on Sunday called “Writing on the River” for teachers who write that was organized by Project Write Now . The event was one of the best conferences I’ve ever attended. After spending the day with like-minded people and celebrating ME, I left with my spark for writing reignited.

Four years have passed since the event was last held thanks to the pandemic, and those years in between were filled with concern, fear, and unsustainable objectives for educators everywhere.

For educators who write like me, however, the objectives and demands were extra heavy. I put my own writing aside too many times because I was overwhelmed by professional responsibilities.

The result?

My mental well-being suffered greatly.

I should not have abandoned my words in a time when I most needed them.

As they say, hindsight is 20/20, but its time for me to put up or shut up in 20/23.

At the beginning of the retreat, everyone stood in a circle around the room and each person read a line from the remarkable piece “Why I Write” by Terry Tempest Williams. The lines I read aloud were, “I write to honor beauty¨ and “Ï write as a bow to the wilderness.”

Our task after we finished was to spend some time journaling about the reasons we write. Here is what I wrote:

Why do I write?

I write to paint with words because pens work better for me than brushes.

I write to cope with what I cannot control and to make sense of the absurd.

I write to find my place in the world and to belong to myself.

I write to grieve, and those words transform into something to celebrate.

I write to tame the monsters and to walk with the wild.

I write to quench my thirst for life.

I write to colorize my memories’ black-and-white film reels and to fill in the blank gaps.

I write to slow down the hamster running full speed in my mind and to give a voice to my thoughts.

I write to spark a light in the darkness.

I write to overcome the demons of my past, immerse myself fully in my present, and dream for my future.

I write to connect my soul with my heart and my heart with my mind.

I write because it is my religion, the blank page in front of me a baptism, my words a confession.

I write with the heart of my inner child, who still loves to play with toys and spin around under the warm sun  with her arms outstretched wide.

I write to feel what it means to be a human having a human experience and to honor all vibes, not just good vibes.

I write because I love the feeling of filling a blank page with words that roll off my pen or I strike on my keyboard with my fingers.

I write from a place which cannot be seen but exists just the same.

I write to remember, and to forget.

I write to keep close the laughter coming from my nieces and nephews.

I write when I am longing, and when I am satisfied.

I write because I have to.

I write because I need to.

I write because I write.

Why do you write?

-Jill Ocone

Thank you for joining me on my journey. I am glad you are here.

With light and gratitude,


“Why I Write” was posted on jillocone.com on March 21, 2023. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any of my employers. Copyright 2023, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

Published in Winward Review’s Volume 19-Empathy and Entropy

I am elated to announce that my essay, “Molly in My Heart”, was selected for publication in Winward Review’s Volume 19-Empathy and Entropy, which is now available online. “Molly In My Heart” can be found on pages 78-80.

The pandemic threw a lot of wrenches into the process from submission through publication, but the wait was worth it. 

The volume is filled with works like mine themed around the ideas of empathy and entropy. “Molly In My Heart” is about a childhood friend whom I still think about with love (I changed her name to protect her identity). Our world is full of acrimony and disorder, and as such, entropy is currently winning. Empathy is sorely needed across the board, and I hope that this issue reminds readers to understand and support others who are hurting in any fashion.

Windward Review is a student-operated, faculty-advised creative publication of Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi’s Islander Creative Writers and the Department of English.The editorial process is led by Dr. Robin Carstensen, who instructs English 4385: Studies in Creative Writing, Literary Publishing each spring semester and works with a core team in the summer and fall. Design and layout team is in partnership with Dr. Catherine Schumann and students in English 3378: Document Design and Publishing. Windward Review’s current editorial staff includes Dylan Lopez (Managing Editor), Zoe Elise Ramos (Senior Editor), Raven Reese (Co-Managing Editor), and Dr. Robin Carstensen (Faculty Advisor).

I’d like to thank Zoe Elise Ramos, who created a wonderful issue, for all of her hard work and for her perseverance. While the issue may not have conformed to original timelines, the final product is a beautiful testament of her dedication to her craft. Congratulations to all of the other artists included in the issue and to the editorial staff on such a poignant issue of Winward Review. It’s an honor to be among you.

Thank you for joining me on my journey. I am glad you are here.

With light and gratitude,


“Published in Winward Review’s Volume 19-Empathy and Entropy” was posted on jillocone.com on March 15, 2023. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any of my employers. Copyright 2023, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

Savor the Spring

Each year, I write down the date of the first time I hear the spring peepers singing in morning´s pre-dawn moments while walking into my school building. I have heard them as early as the last week of February in some years, whereas in others, it’s been as late as mid-April.

My heart galloped last Thursday when I heard them on March 2, 2023, much to the chagrin of the groundhog who predicted six more weeks of winter, I’m sure.

The song of the peepers is my favorite spring harbinger, for their chorus signals that we are on the downside of winter´s hump of darkness and cruising to more daylight hours and new life sprouting in nature. 

We still may have to deal with bone-chilling temperatures and sloppy precipitation, but the moment I can stop using my car´s seat warmer is hiding within the calendar. 

It won’t be long until the tiny blue and white weed flowers spring up between the cracks of the sidewalk or scattered among the fresh, green blades of grass and grape hyacinths shooting out of nowhere in the brown, barren yard.

Spring training baseball is another one of my favorite seasonal precursors. The cracks of the bats, the voices of announcers and umpires, and the cheers (or boos, as it may be) of the crowd on my television sends waves of comfort like no other through my body, and is one of the first indications we are collectively riding spring’s upswing.

And guess what? Yesterday, I noticed a neighborhood cherry tree’s delicate pink blossoms already open and facing the sun.

My intention this year is to slow down and delight in all things spring while disregarding distractions. I will watch the sunrise´s and sunset’s changing colors a little longer. I will inhale deep the clean, rain-sprinkled air and the fragrance of the honeysuckles riding the breeze any chance I get. I will run the silky satinness of new growth through my fingers. I will listen to the peepers and birds serenading the world at the day’s beginning and end. I will enjoy the taste of fresh, springtime strawberries and lie on the grass to watch the clouds pass by above me. I will take my time while walking in nature and let all of my senses play like a child. And most importantly, I will navigate my journey to publication with curiosity, enthusiasm, and pride.

Yes, I will enjoy this equinox and savor this spring.

Thank you for joining me on my journey. I am glad you are here.

With light and gratitude,


“Savor the Spring” was posted on jillocone.com on March 8, 2023. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any of my employers. Copyright 2023, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

Rick Rubin’s “The Creative Act: A Way of Being” Will Change Your Life

I love to read, and in my younger days, I would read a book from cover to cover in as little as a week or less.

These days, I tend to accumulate piles of books, then crack open the covers of as many as I can during the summer months simply because I don’t have the energy, the focus, or the time to read much for pleasure during the school year.

However, the universe led me to noted music producer Rick Rubin’s new book, The Creative Act: A Way of Being, which was published by Penguin Press in January and has since become a #1 New York Times Bestseller.

As a lifelong fan of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, I recognized Rubin’s name immediately. He produced many of their albums, as well as the Beastie Boys’ License to Ill, Tom Petty’s Wildflowers and Echo, and a host of others. He also is an eight-time Grammy winner, and in 2007, MTV called him the “most important producer of the last 20 years. 

At first, I was skeptical, since I’m not at all musically inclined. What could the founder of Def Jam records and the producer behind so many successful albums teach me about creativity? 

My copy, complete with its kaleidoscope of sticky flags.

I now have a new favorite book.

“I set out to write a book about what to do to make a great work of art. Instead, it revealed itself to be a book on how to be.” —Rick Rubin

Many famed music producers are known for a particular sound that has its day. Rick Rubin is known for something else: creating a space where artists of all different genres and traditions can home in on who they really are and what they really offer. He has made a practice of helping people transcend their self-imposed expectations in order to reconnect with a state of innocence from which the surprising becomes inevitable. Over the years, as he has thought deeply about where creativity comes from and where it doesn’t, he has learned that being an artist isn’t about your specific output, it’s about your relationship to the world. Creativity has a place in everyone’s life, and everyone can make that place larger. In fact, there are few more important responsibilities.

The Creative Act is a beautiful and generous course of study that illuminates the path of the artist as a road we all can follow. It distills the wisdom gleaned from a lifetime’s work into a luminous reading experience that puts the power to create moments—and lifetimes—of exhilaration and transcendence within closer reach for all of us.

From Amazon

Rubin’s book is chock full of practical affirmations and inspiration for everyone, not just for artists

I am a writer, and I am absolutely hooked on Rubin’s book.

His chapters are short snippets of grandiose wisdom and profound statements. I can read and absorb one every day without feeling overwhelmed by my job-related to-do lists or stressors.

The book has spoken to me so tremendously, I brought my copy, with a gazillion post-it flags fanning from its pages like feathers, to share with my writing group. 

Our leader, Mike, also brought his copy to share because the book had the same effect on him.

The universe at work, indeed.

I cannot recommend this book enough. Everyone will find a kernel of inspiration or a new way to see the “ordinary” or just “be” within its pages.

I’m about halfway done with reading this bible of creativity and inspiration, and I thought I’d share a few statements that really spoke to me.

Clouds never truly disappear. They change form. They turn into rain and become part of the ocean, and then evaporate and return to being clouds.

The same is true of art.

Art is the circulation of energetic ideas. What makes them appear ne is that they’re combining differently each time they come back. No two clouds are the same.

Page 14

Substitute the word “idea” or “creation” for “art,” if you don’t consider yourself an “artist,” and Rubin’s take still applies. 

When you’re working on a project, you may notice apparent coincidence appearing more often than randomness allows – almost as if there is another hand gilding yours in a certain direction. As if there is an inner knowing gently informing your movements. Faith allows you to trust the direction without needing to understand it. Pay particular attention to the moments that take your breath away – a beautiful sunset, an unusual eye color, a moving piece of music, the elegant design of a complex machine. If a piece of work, a fragment of consciousness, or an element of nature is somehow allowing us to access something bigger, that is its spiritual component made manifest. It awards us a glimpse of the unseen.

Pages 32-22

Rubin just described my experience from my soon-to-be-published-novel’s first seed through today. I’ve tried to use my words to tell others about my journey but never could fully explain my experience. In a few simple yet elegant sentences, Rubin did just that.

    The world is constantly changing, so no matter how often we practice paying attention, there will always be something new to notice. It’s up to us to find it.

    Page 56

    Again, Rubin succinctly expresses something I’ve practiced for almost a decade now but had difficulty trying to explain. Look for the extraordinary in the ordinary!

      The purpose of the work is to awaken something in you first, then allow something to be awakened in others. And it’s fine if they’re not the same thing. We can only hope that the magnitude of the charge we experience reverberates as powerfully for others as it does for us.

      Pages 90-91

      When I write something, whether it is a short snippet to share wisdom, like this post, or a larger piece such as a story or a novel, the best moments are when I feel the awakening inside of me. As a writer, my goal is always to hope that my reader experiences a similar feeling of awakening. And this book has awakened me in countless ways.

        Ride the wave as long as it can be ridden. If you are fortunate enough to experience the strike of inspiration, take full advantage of the access. Remain in the energy of this rarefied moment for as long as it lasts. When flowing, keep going. Page 130.

        Page 130

        Simple yet so profound. Whatever your wave is, RIDE IT as long as you can.

          The artist casts a line to the universe. We don’t get to choose when a noticing or inspiration comes. We can only be there to receive it. As with meditation, our engagement in the process is what allows the result.

          Page 144

          Again, I experience this so often, sometimes almost on a daily basis, but I’ve never been able to express this phenomenon in words. Rubin does, and it’s good advice, no matter your profession or role. 

            It’s powerful. It’s profound. And it’s for YOU. Be inspired and see everything with new lenses by reading Rubin’s The Creative Act: A Way of Being.

            Thank you for joining me on my journey. I am glad you are here.

            With light and gratitude,


            “Rick Rubin’s ‘The Creative Act: A Way of Being’ Will Change Your Life” was posted on jillocone.com on March 1, 2023. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any of my employers. Copyright 2023, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

            The Perks of Perseverance

            I am beyond elated to share that I signed and submitted a publishing contract with Wild Rose Press for my debut novel earlier this week. This is an absolute dream come true, and I couldn´t be more thrilled. 

            Longtime followers and treasured friends know the seeds for my novel were first planted years ago. Instead of neglecting those seeds, I nourished them by listening to the universe and following its breadcrumbs, and that led me to my main character, Kelly Lynch.

            I finished the first version of the novel in 2018, but what you will read when it is published is quite different. Kelly´s story of navigating the seas of friendship and the storm of loss on her journey of self-discovery, which led her from the beaches of the Jersey Shore to Dublin, Ireland, will hopefully inspire readers long after they turn the last page. 

            The most recent manuscript version grew from each previous one. I’d revise, send it out in queries to agents and publishers, receive rejections, take a break, then revise again, send it out, and so on.

            Signing my contract on Monday, February 20, 2023. It’s real!!!!

            Both perseverance and my passion for crafting Kelly’s story, which became stronger with each rejection, ultimately guided me to the right publication opportunity. I am incredibly grateful to my editor, Judi, for believing in my novel, and to Wild Rose Press for selecting my debut novel for publication.

            I don’t know timelines of anything yet, but the next few months are going to be incredibly exciting as I sail upon uncharted waters towards eventually holding the final, published book in my hands. The novel´s name will be changing, as will some of its content during the editing process, but the changes will only enhance Kelly’s story as it continues to evolve.

            I am abundantly grateful for all the kind words of encouragement and comments of congratulations I’ve received on my social media posts announcing my contract. If you took the time to leave me an encouraging word or two, I see you, I hear you, and I thank you for your role in my journey, whatever that may be. I cannot wait to share this next chapter with you.

            With light and gratitude,


            “The Perks of Perseverance” was posted on jillocone.com on February 22, 2023. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any of my employers. Copyright 2023, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

            Everyone Deserves a “Mrs. Barber”

            The clarity of my childhood memories varies, with some nonexistent and others hazy at best.

            But a handful are crystal clear, like they might have happened just a few days ago.

            I loved both school and books as a child, and one of my favorite places in my elementary school was the library. I can picture it in my mind like I’m standing within its magical walls… the circulation desk on the right, the brown faux wood carrels in the center, and the maze of bookshelves that seemed like they reached from the floor to the ceiling encircling them. 

            It was so grand, the library, so big, and my love for books grew with each visit. I would wander and browse the shelves with wonder and never felt hurried, unlike Simon Mouse in one of my favorite books (which I renewed and reread countless times during second grade), “Hurry Up, Slowpoke” by Crosby Newall Bonsall. 

            I also loved the book “The Littlest Leaguer” by Syd Hoff. I saw myself in Harold, the main character who also tended to be on the awkward side while lacking natural athletic ability. Harold rode the bench in the little league dugout because he was terrible at baseball. His small stature, however, proved useful, and he ended up making the play of the season when he was given the chance.

            Score for the underdog! 

            But it wasn’t the aisles of spines, the library’s blueprint or deliciously musty aroma, or even the special reading program I was selected for that kindled my love for books, and with it, my innate desire to write and read.

            It was the woman behind that circulation desk.

            Mrs. Barber.

            Whether she was organizing the shelves, teaching us about the Dewey Decimal System, reading a book to my class, decorating for the holidays, or simply sharing a soft-spoken greeting alongside her kindhearted smile, Mrs. Barber was the heart of the library’s soul.

            She’s in every memory I have of that library, even on the dark day when I learned the truth about Santa Claus. I was in fourth grade and a classmate told me, point blank, that Santa wasn’t real. I played it as cool as I could, masking my disillusion with aloofness, but once the library emptied of students, I cried like the dickens in the corner. Mrs. Barber’s comfort and solace in that moment softened the scars of losing a part of my innocence.

            As luck would have it, Mrs. Barber was transferred to the high school at the start of my freshman year. I spent more time in the media center than any other room in the school building during my four years of high school reading, writing, studying, and volunteering alongside her warmth and grace. She never judged me and was a positive and warm confidant, especially when I most needed one, and was a true professional in never stepping over the faculty/student boundary. I even considered following in Mrs. Barber’s footsteps and becoming a school media specialist before another path was chosen for me.

            Despite my best intentions to stay connected, I lost touch with Mrs. Barber after I graduated from high school in 1989.

            Fast forward to the mid-2000s.

            After checking out of the local grocery store on a day when humidity hung in the air, I wheeled my full cart through the exit vestibule into the mugginess and stopped at a table where a small, elder woman solicited donations for a nearby heart hospital. I handed her five-dollar bill, then our eyes connected and our faces lit up.

            “Mrs. Barber!” I exclaimed as she said, “Jill!” in a similar, enthusiastic fashion. 

            She rose to her feet and we hugged, and her frail arms warmed and comforted me just as they did on that dark Santa day. 

            Twenty years had passed by in the blink of an eye, but here she was, well into her seventies, and she remembered ME.

            We chatted for a while, me sharing a bit about my long and winding journey to becoming a teacher and her talking about her retirement and her family, especially her grandchildren. If my memory is correct, she also explained the hospital she was seeking donations for had made a tremendous impact on her life, and she saw it as her duty to pay them back.

            We ran into each other a few more times in the early 2010s, same situation. She’d be manning a hospital donation table at the local grocery store, no matter how hot or how muggy the day, and she’d remember me every time. We’d talk for a bit and say, “See you next time!” while hugging farewell.

            It’s been a few years since our last fortuitous run-in, but unfortunately, there won’t be a next time.

            Mrs. Barber’s obituary ran in the local papers earlier this year.

            She lived a full life and died at 94 years young. A classmate of mine posted a beautiful tribute on the funeral home’s obituary page about how much Mrs. Barber influenced her love of reading, and I couldn’t agree more.

            If it weren’t for Mrs. Barber, I would not have discovered my love for books as a six-year-old, which led to a love of reading and igniting my inherent inclination to write.

            Everyone deserves to have a Mrs. Barber in their life, someone who sparks a light that leads to wonder and discovery, and if we’re lucky, to our true purpose.

            Mrs. Barber was that spark for me.

            I thought about these immortal words from Ralph Waldo Emerson when I read Mrs. Barber’s obituary:

            What is success? To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate the beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.

            Ralph Waldo Emerson

            Mrs. Barber, you laughed often and much. You won the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children. You earned appreciation and you endured. You appreciated beauty and found the best in others. You left the world a whole lot better. You made me breathe easier because you lived.

            You succeeded, and I thank you.

            Thank you for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

            With light and gratitude,


            “Everyone Deserves a Mrs. Barber” was posted on jillocone.com on February 15, 2023. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any of my employers. Copyright 2023, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

            Grace and Contentment

            I’m enjoying a rare moment of solitude and peace on this lazy October afternoon, a throwback of sorts to my carefree summer routine. In between sips of coffee, I write while relishing the sound of the screaming blue jay outside.

            Like every educator, my to-do list of professional responsibilities went from zero to 150+ as the calendar’s page flipped from August to September. It’s been 42 days of nonstop go-go-go, and I’m left wondering if September even happened because it came in like a ferocious, pouncing lion and was over before I could even breathe.

            My annual autumn lupus flare has settled in for its yearly nuisance fester. Energy depletion, fatigue, and pain are unwanted side effects, but I’m simultaneously grateful this year’s flare isn’t as debilitating as it could be. 

            I’ve struggled here and there with keeping the ghoulies in my head at bay, but they are quiet today, and my soul is feeling the most at home and grounded in my body than it has in months. 

            It’s a good day.

            Autumn’s late afternoon amber bars of sunshine reflect off the changing leaves and absorb an invisible yet oddly satisfying aroma of Earth and fall time sweetness intermixed with the crisp autumn breeze heralding the beginning of the end of the year. 

            Speaking of endings, I made the tough decision last month to gracefully end my querying journey with Chapter One-A Novel. I’ve got one holdout still in the trenches, but based upon the 200+ responses (or lack of responses thereof) I’ve received from my queries, I already know the answer. 

            I edited and revised both my manuscript and query letter countless times and tried my absolute best, but it’s time to wrap up this 8-year-long journey with pride and dignity. I wrote a novel, and nobody can take that accomplishment away from me. Maybe someday I’ll revisit it, but as Tony Stark said in Avengers: Endgame, part of the journey is the end, and it’s time for Chapter One-A Novel’s journey to end.

            My writing journey, however, is not ending but merely shifting its course. I’ve begun working on my next novel (tentatively titled John Doe) while simultaneously researching and outlining three non-fiction books. Each project’s potential is infinite, teeming with unique possibilities, and will hopefully educate and inspire readers to see and think in new ways. 

            At least, that’s my hope and the intention that fuels my progress.

            I am walking in the JDRF One Walk this Sunday with my 11-year-old nephew who was diagnosed with Type-1 Diabetes a few years ago. It’s an honor to walk in his name and with a team comprised of treasured family and friends while giving back to The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, an organization that has helped and supported my nephew in numerous ways. Please support my quest with positive thoughts or a small monetary donation (if you are able to do so) by clicking here.

            Thank you for joining me on my journey and for your support. I’m glad you’re here.

            With love and gratitude,


            “Grace and Contentment” was posted on jillocone.com on October, 2022. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any of my employers. Copyright 2022, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

            It’s Time for Peppers, Life, and Dolly

            Oh, by gosh, by golly… August has been one exhilarating whirlwind, and I’ve relished every single moment. Electric pain radiates throughout my body and a shroud of fatigue lies heavy upon my shoulders, but I wouldn’t change a single thing.

            The pain I feel means I am ALIVE and living my one wild and precious life.

            I traveled with my family to Nashville to help my niece move into her college dorm for her sophomore year. Not including too many details for privacy reasons, but her school is two miles from the heart of the city. Before move-in day arrived, we explored the area, including parts of her campus we hadn’t seen, parts of Nashville we hadn’t seen, and the adorable town of Franklin. 

            Video I took on Broadway Street near Nudie’s. This goes on ALL NIGHT.

            The Nashville highlight for me was walking over The John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge towards Nissan Stadium, the home field of the Tennessee Titans, and hearing my favorite band, the Red Hot Chili Peppers! No ticket needed for this concert! The full moon rose alongside us and I literally danced and sang under the bridge (pun intended) to about three-quarters of their show. And I also scored a tour shirt from the merch trailer to wear to their NJ show (more details about this below).

            As we strolled away from the stadium and towards the Broadway Street area, the chaos of Music City drowned out Anthony’s voice, John’s guitar, Flea’s bass, and Chad’s drums. If you ever want to feel alive, I highly recommend ensconcing yourself in the Nashville scene, as I actually sensed the festive atmosphere pulsing within my bones and reverberating in my muscles.

            Sidebar: Should you find yourself in Nashville, take the time to wait in line for Hattie B’s Hot Chicken. My goodness, it’s worth it. Best fried chicken and crinkle cut fries I’ve ever had.

            My niece is a strong and independent young woman who chose to give up part of her summer to be an orientation leader, and every day, she inspires me to be a better person. Her orientation obligations resulted in moving in earlier than the rest of the campus, so we had more room in the parking area, elevators, hallways, and her apartment. Her jam-packed schedule also gave us all less time to dwell on the sadness of farewell, and instead of saying goodbye when it was time to leave, I said, “See you soon.” 

            We stopped at Dollywood’s Theme Park and DreamMore Resort in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, on the way home for a day stay over. Upon walking into the theme park, we noticed with curiosity that Christmas decorations were hanging from just about everywhere. We happened upon a sign announcing that filming for a holiday special would be taking place in various areas of the park throughout the day and didn’t think too much of it, until…..

            Dolly! Photo courtesy of my SIL.

            drum roll please….

            WE SAW DOLLY!

            That’s right, folks! THE one and only, along with JIMMY FALLON!

            Completely unexpected and truly an amazing. My sister-in-law snapped pictures of them as my roller-coaster-partner-in-crime nephew and I spied Dolly while seated on a coaster, of course, but would you expect any less from us? 

            We rode every coaster in the park, two of them twice, and by the luck of the draw, we were seated either in the back row or front row on about half of the rides. Here’s my Dollywood Coaster Report:

            We also rode the train, which was a restored World War II coal-and-steam-powered train, and got drenched on the rapids.

            And did someone say, “Cinnamon Bread?” Named the best cinnamon bread in America by Travel and Leisure magazine, the iconic pull-apart bread made fresh at the Grist Mill melted in my mouth and was so good it didn’t need any icing, nor did I care about the carbs messing with my sugar levels.

            After our park day ended, we enjoyed the pool and hot tub area before retiring to our room for the night, and yes, I happily slept in a bunk bed. Every item on the buffet breakfast at Song and Hearth the following morning was simply delicious. 

            In my humble opinion, Dollywood’s theming, from the smallest of details to every single aspect of each ride and coaster, surpasses its Orlando and Anaheim big name competitors. Both the theme park and the DreamMore resort were clean and meticulously landscaped, and every employee we encountered pleasant and helpful. An affordable escape off the beaten path with less crowds and more value than its big name rivals, Dollywood quickly became one of my favorite places. In 2023, a new coaster called Big Bear Mountain will be added to the theme park, and the new HeartSong Lodge and Resort adjacent to DreamMore will officially open for visitors, so I have two good reasons to return to Dollywood!

            We tooled around Gatlinburg for a few hours before heading to Virginia with a quick drive through Virginia Tech on the way to our hotel for the night, and we rolled back into the Jersey Shore on Tuesday with a suitcase of wonderful memories.

            By choice, I didn’t have time to rest. The day I had waited far too long for had finally arrived, and I woke up on Wednesday, August 17, ready to pop with anticipation like a kid on Christmas morning.

            I had never seen my favorite band in concert prior to hearing them perform from a distance while standing outside their Nashville venue five days earlier. The reasons for this no longer matter because I finally crossed off the number-one item on my lifelong bucket list:


            RHCP Set List from MetLife Show on 8/17/22.

            The ones who have provided the soundtrack to my life since my high school years took the stage with explosive energy and sheer delight. I jumped, and danced, and sang, and screamed, and got lost in the joyous moment of every song they played, which was the absolute best set list of the tour, By The Way (again, pun intended). 

            My concert comrades and I stood for the entire show, and it was just an electric, epic evening, everything I could have wished for and more. Anthony, and Flea, and Chad, and JOHN who returned for the Unlimited Love album and tour, playing their hearts out with a palpable intensity and exuberance, and constantly expressing their gratitude to the audience… it honestly couldn’t have been any better. 

            The Peppers’ music has been my constant companion since I was in my teens and carried me through some dark and dismal life episodes. There’s something about Anthony’s voice that simultaneously soothes and energizes me. Time and time again, their music helps me cope with whatever life throws at me, either as a result of my own choices or by happenstance, and on more than one occasion, I’ve felt like they wrote certain lyrics just for me.

            And they are still here, rocking with as much fire and spirit as they did when they first came together as a band.

            I cannot wait for the release of the Peppers’ SECOND double-album of 2022 titled Return of the Dream Canteen in October. I sincerely hope a tour to support Canteen album follows, and if one does, I will most definitely be there.

            Special commemorative ticket from Paul O’Neill Day on 8/21/22.

            Since the concert, I’ve enjoyed a jaunt to Six Flags Great Adventure with my brother, youngest niece, and two nephews, and witnessed the retiring of Paul O’Neill’s number before a much-needed Yankees victory over the Toronto Blue Jays at the house that Ruth built in celebration of my treasured friend’s birthday.

            I’m still relishing my carefree summer days while trying my best to ignore my school emails and meet my upcoming magazine deadlines as summer’s end looms in the distance. There’s a time for everything, and I’ve learned to trust the seasons of both my calendar and my life. 

            I will continue to wake up each day with a zest for living and an intention to experience something wondrous each day, no matter the date on the calendar, the temperature outside, or what’s on my to-do list.

            Thank you for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

            With love and gratitude,


            “It’s Time For Peppers, Life, and Dolly” was posted on jillocone.com on August 24, 2022. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any of my employers. Copyright 2022, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

            Angling With My Query

            I experienced its first visions eight years ago, and my life has never been the same since. 

            My eight-year voyage on Chapter One-A Novel’s waters has been full of ups and downs and I’ve been sailing by writing through calm currents and tempest-fueled tides. Along its course, I’ve had to search for meaning in unexpected places and destined coincidences, make tough decisions about what path to follow, and wade through seas teeming with ghoulies and doubt. 

            But now I stand firm on the shore with the finished manuscript of Chapter One-A Novel gleaming in my hands.

            I know you’ve heard such proclamations in the past, but I assure you I am not crying “wolf” this time. 

            This version is the real deal, and I am announcing it out loud and proud to the universe: CHAPTER ONE IS DONE.

            To borrow one of the novel’s themes and visions, I have written Chapter One, so everything will fall into place as it stands steadfast as an intriguing work of fiction in its own right.

            The novel, MY novel, is done, but my journey is just beginning.

            I have reentered the tidepool of the publishing world by seeking representation and/or publication by dangling my authentic and heartfelt query letter addressed to agents and publishing houses as bait. No nibbles yet, but I know the universe will lure the right opportunity to bite my hook, which reads as follows:

            Kelly Lynch navigates the ebb and flow of life’s tides on her fortuitous journey of self-discovery in my approximately 64,000-word novel titled Chapter One-A Novel.

            As Waterville High School’s newest English teacher, Kelly Lynch befriends fellow educator and James Joyce enthusiast Shannon Moran. While Kelly grapples with deep scars from her past, she struggles to balance her active life as a teacher and her stagnant marriage to shiftless alcoholic Wayne Coopersmith. Shannon’s encouragement resurrects Kelly’s innate fervor for writing, while Kelly inspires Shannon to pursue her lifelong dream of studying in Dublin, Ireland.

            A double-dose of tragedy fractures Kelly’s life, and in the aftermath, she throws caution to the wind and follows the mysterious path of breadcrumbs scattered by the universe from coastal New Jersey to the grandeur of Dublin.

            Chance unites Kelly with Jame Flaherty, a Dubliner who guides her along the footprints left by Joyce and his characters while sparking a raging inferno inside her heart. Her experiences on the Emerald Isle hearten a keen awareness of the present moment’s tremendous value and fortify Kelly’s awakening. Upon returning to the Jersey Shore, she begins her next Chapter One anew by pursuing her calling as a writer.

            Kelly’s profoundly moving story of enduring the waves spurred by the tribulations and the triumphs of the past, the present, and the future while searching for a sense of purpose in the face of grief will resonate with readers long after they turn the last page.

            Please keep in mind I am the author and not the main character of Chapter One – A Novel, which is a work of fiction. All of the characters and events portrayed in this novel are either products of my imagination or used fictitiously. 

            In between querying and making progress on my assignments for Jersey Shore Magazine’s Fall/Holiday 2022 issue, I am already working on my next writing project. Stay tuned for updates, because I intend to be more active with sharing my ideas and my writing life right here on the blog.

            Spoiler: I’ve hidden a few Easter eggs about my future project(s) within this post’s words.

            Thank you for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

            With love and gratitude,


            “Angling With My Query” was posted on jillocone.com on July 4, 2022. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any of my employers. Copyright 2022, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.